Pay row threatens to force out second Stoke-on-Trent Labour councillor
A SECOND councillor is poised to leave the Labour party in a row over cuts to council workers' pay.
Duncan Walker said his future in Stoke-on-Trent City Council's ruling Labour group is now 'in limbo' after he challenged the leadership over cuts to staff terms and conditions.
The £2 million cuts will see hundreds of the authority's lowest paid workers lose hundreds of pounds in pay as allowances for working nights and weekends are scrapped and the working week is cut.
Andy Lilley, who represents the Baddeley, Milton and Norton alongside Mr Walker, has already left the party in opposition to the cuts.
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And trade unions are preparing to withdraw funding and support for Labour in Stoke-on-Trent over the dispute, while the city's three MPs are preparing to step in to help broker a resolution.
Mr Walker said: "It has been like talking to a brick wall because the leadership don't have the answers.
"The council is going after the lowest paid and our argument is very clearly that these cuts should be fair and proportionate across the whole council.
"If this has to happen because of cuts, it shouldn't be a case of the chief executive and top officers earning fantasy island money while the lowest paid lose a fortune.
"Nothing galls me more than the fact that the people who are carrying out these changes are not being touched.
"There is definite unrest in the group. The unions withdrawing support for Labour is massive."
Mr Walker was told last week he was set to be automatically expelled from the Labour party by its national office because members are not allowed to leave the council group and remain in the party.
But because he has not officially resigned from the group, or been removed from it, his future in the party remains uncertain.
Unions say the cuts will see some of the lowest paid frontline workers lose thousands of pounds.
Parking charges will also be imposed for staff and workers asked to take five days' unpaid leave.
Labour says it favours terms and conditions cuts to more redundancies, and its decision to commit to a 'living wage' of £7.45 an hour will see many workers receive increases.
Labour councillor Neil Day, who represents Blurton West and Newstead and is chairman of the council's licensing and registration panel, tabled a motion in a private Labour group meeting calling for the terms and conditions plan to be delayed pending negotiations.
He said: "The thrust was mainly to get a break in this delicate situation and for what is being discussed to come back under the control of the group.
"I'm disappointed in the way it turned out. It seems to me that the group is abdicating responsibility and letting officers handle it.
"I have a degree of support for Andy Lilley and Duncan Walker and I'm sad the Labour group didn't see fit to take charge of the situation."
Asked whether he will continue as a Labour councillor, Mr Day said: "I'm watching carefully what is and is not happening."
Unison's regional branch in Birmingham delayed a decision on axing support for Labour in the city after requesting more information.